According to a recently released and more-refined breakout of the FatBurger poll results, the closer a resident lives to the Kwik Way site, the more likely s/he was to vote in the poll and the stronger her/his opposition to the FatBurger proposal.
As reported earlier, participating respondents as a group opposed the FatBurger proposal, casting 7 “No” votes for every 6 “Yes” votes (i.e., a No-to-Yes ratio of 1.16). (See “Kernighan's online poll opposes FatBurger.”)
The recently released breakout grouped respondents by whether they lived closer than 1/2 mile, closer than 1 mile, closer than 3 miles, closer than 5 miles, or futher than 5 miles from the Kwik Way site.
Residents within a half mile of the site strongly opposed the proposal to allow a FatBurger restaurant to take over the site, giving 7 “No” votes for every 4 “Yes” votes (i.e., a No-to-Yes ratio of 1.8).
Expanding attention to residents living within one mile of the site still showed decisive opposition. These residents gave 3 “No” votes for every 2 “Yes” votes (i.e., a No-to-Yes ratio of 1.6).
But further-away voters favored FatBurger
Somewhere between one and three miles from the Kwik Way, however, sentiment for the proposal flips. Residents in this ring favored FatBurger with almost the same intensity that the closest residents opposed FatBurger. In this 1–3 mile ring, residents gave 7 “Yes” votes for every 4 “No” votes (i.e., a Yes-to-No ratio of 1.7).
Support for FatBurger rises even higher as you look further out. In the ring from 3 to 5 miles away from the site, residents gave almost 3 “Yes” votes for every one “No” vote (i.e., a Yes-to-No ratio of 2.8).
Closer residents were also much more likely to take part in the poll.
Residents living within a mile of the site were over 1800 percent more likely to vote in the poll than the average resident within the 5-mile radius analyzed.
Residents who live between 3 and 5 miles away were less than 9 percent as likely to vote in the poll.
Who should you listen to?
First, let’s make an obvious point, which is powerful and compelling even without knowing much about the site or its history at all:
Suppose I were a policy maker—perhaps named Pat—and I was looking for guidance about how to influence the resolution of a neighborhood land-use dispute.
Who should I listen to most closely?
Folks a mile or more away?
Or those who live very near the disputed site, who are all too familiar with the issues, and who will have to live much more intimately with the consequences of the decision?
The geographic analysis tells a clear story: those living nearby do not want FatBurger.
Moving to shakier ground
Now let’s move beyond the obvious to the shakier ground of what we should learn from poll.
Let’s start the discussion with something on which almost everyone can agree: the Kwik Way is a disgraceful blight upon our neighborhood.
The comments of many of those who voted expressed this quite vividly: “dump,” “Crap-Way,” “nasty eyesore,” “embarrassment,” “blight,” “disgusting,”…. (For excerpts from the comments see “Fix this blight as soon as possible.”)
This negative view of the Kwik Way was largely shared by voters whether they voted for or against the FatBurger proposal.
So, if everyone hates the current Kwik Way, why did some vote “Yes” and some “No”? And, in particular, why did nearby residents tend to vote against FatBurger, while more-distant voters supported the proposal?
The rationale often offered by “Yes” voters was relatively simple and somewhat unidimensional. I’ll paraphrase:
Anything is better than the Kwik Way. Let’s not wait another minute; let’s replace Kwik Way with FatBurger, which will better maintain the property and abate the blight. Let’s go for the Kwik Fix.
FatBurger opponents saw another layer to Kwik Way’s problems
“No” voters, however, tended to see an additional layer to the problems of the Kwik Way site.
Their concerns go beyond the fact that the parcel is a trashy mess, an emporium for the illicit dealing of drugs, and a scene for late-night troublemaking.
Even if all the trash were picked up, the Kwik Way’s building repaired and painted, and all the bad behavior quelled, there’d still be a big problem: The Kwik Way’s pair of broad driveways forms a gaping break in what should be an inviting pedestrian conduit connecting the two business districts of Grand and Lakeshore Avenues.
Add the relatively little drive-thru traffic of the anemic Kwik Way and the break becomes a sometimes-dangerous obstacle. Add the much larger volume of traffic crossing the sidewalk that a successful successor, such as FatBurger, would bring, and you’ve effectively severed that vital pedestrian artery.
So, for many of those who live near the Kwik Way, sure it’s a blight (duh), but a glitzy burger replacement won’t solve the fundamental structural problem with the site.
This view was well expressed by “No”-voter “Amanda B”:
I believe we can do better! We should not settle for a mediocre project just because the owners have let the property get so blighted that it seems that anything would be better. This site provides a huge opportunity to connect Lakeshore and Grand and help unify our neighborhood into a true walkable community. Maintaining a drive-thru there will just increase safety concerns for pedestrians.
Of course, this “No” position is only tenable if you mix in a couple of other ingredients. First, you have to believe that something better than fast food is possible on the site. Such optimistic “No” voters would probably resonate with what Pamela Drake reported in “Local developer: mixed-use development on Kwik Way site still works.”
Second, you’d need the long-term perspective and patience to eschew the quick fix in favor of a solution that works in the long run. “No”-voter Claire Smith captured this attitude:
Bad as it is, we have lived with Quick Way for the thirty years I’ve been in this area—we can live with it a little longer until a more suitable plan can be implemented.
Why don’t the further-flung “Yes” voters seem to care as much about healing the pedestrian scar as they are in eliminating Kwik Way’s trashiness? Now we’d have to speculate: Those who live father away are more likely to drive than walk to that neighborhood, so maybe they’re less likely to see it from a pedestrian’s perspective. And perhaps because they’ve been less involved in the community process to develop alternatives they aren’t geared to seeing the site’s full potential.
In any case, those who know the most about the site, its problems, and its potential solutions—and who will have to live most closely with the consequences—spoke clearly: Don’t lock us in for decades to an auto-oriented fast-food business. We want a comprehensive solution that literally unifies our neighborhood.